Part I: Do you have what it takes to win over investors? Tips from VCs on pitching your company taken from BIO-Europe® 2014

November 12, 2014 Erin Righetti

BEU14 Perf PitchDoug MacDougall, President of MacDougall Biomedical Communications, led a “Perfect Pitch” workshop at BIO-Europe® 2014 in Frankfurt, Germany on November 3. Participants gave 30-second pitches to a panel of VCs. The best pitch won the opportunity to meet with the venture capitalist of their choice.

The panel of judges representing life science investment firms included:

  • Mette Kirstine Agger – Managing Partner, Lundbeckfond Ventures
  • Roel Bulthuis – Managing Director, MS Ventures
  • Ann DeWitt – Senior Director of Investments, Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures, Sanofi
  • Michael Keyoung – Managing Partner, Portola Capital Partners
  • Jack B. Nielsen – Partner, Novo Ventures, Novo A/S
  • Michèle Ollier – Partner, Index Ventures
  • Nancy Sullivan – CEO and Senior Managing Director, Illinois Ventures.

Here’s Part I of some of the tips and takeaways on giving a “perfect pitch,”  taken from the workshop.

  1. It’s really challenging to [give a pitch] in 30 seconds, but with the second pitch it would have been really interesting to figure out what the actual target product would be. [Roel Bulthuis]
  2. Speak a little bit slower and with less words. When you speak too fast, it’s hard for us to really catch it. [Michèle Ollier]
  3. Take your time. In 30 seconds, you’re just trying to get the conversation going. You’re not going to get a check with a 30-second pitch. You’re not even trying to get a meeting going. You’re just trying to get somebody interested enough to ask you questions. [Doug MacDougall]
  4. As far as speaking fast, it’s very important that you’re not speaking too fast, especially if you have an accent. Americans have an accent, too, to Europeans. Start off slow so people can get a feeling for your accent in the first five seconds. [Doug MacDougall]
  5. It would be nice to have a hint of what makes you unique and differentiated in the space. [Ann DeWitt]
  6. Listen to the investors and what they are investing in, and direct your presentation to those people. That’s communication back and forth, to take the communication they give and to determine the pitch. They will likely remember you a bit more. [Doug MacDougall]
  7. Make sure there is a very clear “ask” in your presentation. [Mette Kirstine Agger]
  8. Don’t try to cover all the information that you want to tell to the person. I think the best way is to intrigue the person, sometimes even in two or three words…and impart something a little bit unusual. Because we have heard so many pitches during the year, every time you say ‘my company is doing that and developing this,’ it’s just part of what we hear all the time. If you can say something that is different from that, then we will be intrigued.  [Michèle Ollier]
  9. Thirty seconds is enough time to get our attention. It isn’t to describe everything you do, it’s simply to say ‘here’s where I’m at, here’s what I’m doing, here’s what I need from you.’ It’s interesting how that’s enough to make us want to say ‘hey, I want to talk to you.’ [Nancy Sullivan]BIO-Europe 2014 Perfect Pitch
  10. Most folks these days seem to be pretty data driven. After the initial treatment we want to see some data pretty early on in the discussion, otherwise it is only dreams. [Jack B. Nielsen]
  11. Some companies worry about confidentiality in their presentation, and they worry that if they disclose a target, we may use it. But if you don’t share enough, and if you don’t give us a target, then we may never have another meeting. [Michael Keyoung]
  12. High level data is important but if you think about 30-minute meetings, especially a conference presentation, and considering the number of meetings that we take, it’s really important for us to understand conceptually what the product is, what the science is going to drive to, what the business plan is around that, and maybe only some high-level data. [Roel Bulthuis]
  13. One of the things you may want to do when you have a meeting with an investor is to set an agenda of how much you’re going to talk and how much they’re going to talk, because usually with a 30-minute meeting you really end up having 15 to 20 minutes to engage. So it’s really important to set an agenda. [Doug MacDougall]


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